In many ways, this was similar to many other Lightning games in recent weeks - a strong, overall performance for Tampa Bay. In some of those other contests, though, isolated mistakes, short lapses, or phenomenal opposition goaltending cost the Lightning a victory. Tonight, however, they were rewarded for their excellent play with a resounding win.
Each of the three periods had its own storyline. The Lightning dominated play in the first, owning nearly all of the puck possession. They cashed in for three goals, including a tally on the opening shift of the game. The second period featured lots of special teams play. Including a power play that the Panthers carried into the second, the teams combined for six man advantage opportunities. The Lightning went 2-2 on the power play in the period and killed off three of four penalties. Their ability to win the special teams battle in the second period helped them extend the lead to 5-1 after 40 minutes. In the third, the Lightning locked down the game, taking a smart, solid approach. Twice already this season, the Panthers have rallied from four-goal deficits to win games. The Lightning didn't let that happen tonight.
One key to the Lightning offensive success was their consistent net-front presence. They scored goals off screens, tips, and point-blank rebounds. Lightning shooters were precise, too, firing pucks into the top of the net.
Another key was, obviously, special teams play. The Lightning finished the night going 3-4 on the power play. They yielded just the one power play goal to the Panthers.
This win was the Lightning's ninth in a row against a divisional opponent. This contest was also the first of six consecutive divisional games. After the holiday break, we'll see if the Lightning can keep that streak alive when they host Montreal on Saturday.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Brayden Point - Lightning. Goal and three assists.
2. Victor Hedman - Lightning. Two goals and assist.
3. Ondrej Palat - Lightning. Two assists.